Why Is Too Much Insulin Bad?

Insulin is a hormone that helps control the supply of nutrients to cells throughout your body. Though it is commonly known that lack of insulin leads to type 1 diabetes, an excess of insulin also leads to potentially severe health problems. A large amount of exogenous insulin can lead to excessive lowering of blood sugar levels. Chronic overeating can lead to chronic elevation of insulin levels, causing cells to stop responding to insulin.

About Insulin

Insulin is a hormone secreted by beta cells in the pancreas. In addition to regulating the level of glucose in the blood, insulin acts as a general signal to all cells to start drawing nutrients from the blood. Without insulin, cells will essentially starve as they are unable to transport many nutrients into the cell. Insulin also stimulates cells in the liver to restore glycogen and turn any excess sugar into fatty acids. The body stops breaking down fat in tissue for energy when insulin is present and uses sugar, fatty acids and proteins in the blood as energy.

Overdose of Insulin

Exogenous insulin is given as a prescription to people with type 1 diabetes and some other conditions. High intake of insulin or substances that increase mimic insulin or increase its effectiveness can excessively lower blood sugar, resulting in hypoglycemia. Severe hypoglycemia can cause the brain to shut down, resulting in coma and death. Symptoms are mainly due to decreased brain activity including fatigue, headache, confusion, hunger and weakness. If you think you may have overdosed on insulin or have severe hypoglycemia, seek medical help immediately.

Short-Term Effects in Non-Diabetics

Even if you don't need to worry about taking too much prescription insulin, high insulin levels should be a concern. Chronic overeating leads to persistent abundance of nutrients in the blood, the signal that causes insulin to be created. Once cells in your body are full, they no longer respond to insulin and take up nutrients. As insulin remains elevated, cells become resistant to insulin signaling and glucose, fatty acids and cholesterol build up in your blood stream. With high circulating insulin, your body resists breaking fat down for energy.

Long-Term Effects in Non-Diabetics

Persistent elevation of nutrients and insulin in the blood stream, a condition called hyperinsulinemia, eventually leads to type 2 diabetes. Eventually the elevated stress of perpetually trying to clear nutrients from the blood fatigues the beta cells that produce insulin. In addition, hyperinsulinemia greatly raises the risk for developing other diseases, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome and other endocrine disorders in women. Hyperinsulinemia can be avoided by a healthy diet and consistent exercise and other physical activity.